Thursday, October 04, 2007

You Must Listen (Music For Grey Fall Days & More)

The first part of this post had been gestating for about a month. I'd planned to post it a few Fridays back, and include with it a review of the Augie March show at the Variety Playhouse.

I figured that as very, very few people had heard of the band, I could wait until the day of the show to see them. Sadly, it turned out that I was the one person in the Atlanta area who had never heard of Andrew Bird (the headlining act) and the show had sold out days prior. Turns out Mr. Bird is pretty talented in his own right (especially at whistling) but he's not the subject today.

Augie March (in addition to being the title character of arguably Saul Bellow's most famous work) is a band out of Australia that if you cornered me and said "we shall, by force, require you to explain this band to us, compellingly, in under ten words" I would say: "Australia's version of the Drive-By Truckers."

I say this not only because both bands do an excellent job of blending country and "old time" rock n' roll elements to fuzzily distorted alternative rock stylings--which they do--but because Augie March frontman/guitarist/lyricist Glenn Richards writes the best songs this side of Patterson Hood. And unlike press-proclaimed "Great" singer-songwriters that write great lyrics but don't really have that much singing talent and are compositionally lax at best (I'm looking at you Bright Eyes) Richards falls in that rare category of "singer-songwriter" who writes great music and amazing lyrics (other than Hood and DBT, I think Sufjan Stevens is the only person pulling this off at the moment.)

Scope some examples from their single, "One Crowded Hour":
"Well put me in a cage full of lions, I'll learn to speak lion,
In fact I know the language well, I picked it up while I was versing myself in the languages they speak in hell,
That night that silence gave birth to a baby, but they took it away to
her silent dismay and they raised it to be a lady...

Now she can't keep her mouth shut...

And for one crowded hour you were the only one in the room,
I played a few songs for those bumps in the night, in fact I played this very tune,
But you said 'What is this six stringed instrument but an
adolescent loom?'
And one crowded hour would lead to my wreck and ruin."

Now normally, rhyme-y stuff like this can be awful, but it never veers into that territory of say Creed or something where you can guess the next word, and I love the intellectual bravado displayed in "learn to speak lion." Now, layer the whole thing with music that can somehow be both sad and melancholy, and triumphant in a way that evokes a good Irish drinking song, and you get the whole thing:

(Ok, the video isn't mind-blowing. But it's the easiest way to give you a chance to hear this tune without sending more traffic to MySpace and their unreliable music player.)

Moving onward and upward from the Antipodean rock of Augie March to European prog, we get to Mew, a band that probably gets confused with MUSE as they are both rock bands with prog elements in their sound, and if you're drunk or naturally mush-mouthed they sound similar name-wise. Mew's lead singer has one of those clear, high tenor voices made for singing epic stuff, but the rest of the band throws in excellent harmonies. They are often lumped in as part of the NeoProg movement/genre which seems to be (this is my take) rock bands, sometimes indie rock bands, that enjoy prog, but also really like Post-rock, as instrumental parts of their longer compositions are far more likely to sound like Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Explosions In the Sky than the chock-full-of-solos sound of say Dream Theater. Here's The Zookeeper's Boy:

Their lead singer also bears a striking resemblance to Gael Garcia Bernal who starred in Y Tu Mama Tambien and Science of Sleep. Or it's because one of those movies came on a few days before I first saw this video. You decide.

And to complete this morning's hat trick, I give you the band I am currently more or less obsessing with: some blokes out of Manchester, UK called Oceansize. I'm not sure if the name is a result of them being huge Jane's Addiction fans (a la Godsmack and Alice In Chains) but the case could partly be made. The prog+post rock stew I mentioned earlier is an even stronger blend with these guys, and rather than ramble on (it's late and this will be posted early) I give you two vids with music: the first is off their first LP and is called "One Day All This Could Be Yours," (go ahead and make Radiohead comparisons too, if you want) and the other is the first single off their not-yet-released-in-the-states LP Frames, titled "Unfamiliar."

Note: "One Day..." is a lot lower in volume than "Unfamiliar" GUARD YOUR EARS! with Gormans.

And, to freak you out:

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